Anticipate the Obvious

One overcast day in the early 1980’s, The Logging Road Cyclist and his climbing partner Joe Erg found themselves on a ledge high up on one of the granite slabs that the Squamish climbing area is noted for. Robin Barley had told them this was a good route to do (it was an old one of his), but up to this ledge, it had consisted of a difficult, damp and scary dihedral, poorly protected and run-out. They now were at what appeared to be the crux, another damp stretch of granite leading up to a blank-looking overhang. Whatever lay beyond was not visible, and the overhang itself was strongly backlit, and hard to discern. The only protection in sight was a single quarter-inch bolt. The bolts at Squamish deserve special mention. Since Squamish lies adjacent to an arm of sea, and has a very wet climate, climbing bolts rust. Some of the older bolts there had corroded to the point where they looked like nails pulled from the hull of a sunken Tudor warship, as did this one, and indeed all the previous ones on the route.

To TLRC, the results of continuing were pretty clear. If the route got any harder, damper or scarier, they weren’t ¬†going to get much farther, and it looked like all three of those things were about to happen simultaneously. There was always a chance that boldness would prevail and they would make it on up, but if the recent past was any guide, one of them (and it was TLRC’s lead) was going to wind up extricating himself from an unenviable situation involving down climbing the roof with only that bad bolt ¬†below it. Why not, TLRC pointed out to Joe Erg, “anticipate the obvious”, and rappel from this comfortable ledge rather than come down god knows how from above that overhang, and then go and find a more profitable use for the remainder of the day? They did, and when Barley was told, he had an (inordinately, in TLRC’s view) explosive bout of laughter. Barley knew full and well the condition of the route, and had sandbagged them. (Until writing this, TLRC had always held a grudge against Barley for this climb, but in retrospect, it wasn’t too long after TLRC had taken Barley down Tumwater Canyon, where he (Barley) had gotten pinned in a drop with his boat crushed on him and TLRC had to haul him out. All this happened as Barley’s distraught wife looked on. TLRC always just figured it was Barley’s fault and didn’t think much more about it, but perhaps Barley had a different take.)

TLRC, a humble man, eschews self-quotation as a general rule of personal conduct. On the other hand, “If the epithet fits, spout it!”, seems an equally good rule, so there you have it. Since coining the pithy phrase, TLRC has often found himself comforted by using it as a mantra in deteriorating conditions, usually brought about by self-sandbagging.

Take Saturday, for example. It was supposed to rain (well it was definitely going to rain), but the temperatures were to be in the 50’s. To TLRC this seemed pretty warm, and he had fixed in his mind a ride not unlike one on the wet side of Oahu, wherein he might get soaked, but not miserable. Changing in the Falls City cemetery, he felt an unexpected chill, and wisely selected the heavier of the pair of tights he had brought.

He set off on the Valsetz Road, the kind of ride one does when his spirits are unnaturally buoyant, and he feels the need for some stabilization. Eight miles and 2500 feet up a heavily travelled, heavily logged road usually brings one back to earth.

Outstanding, fascinating scenery on the Valsetz Rd.

TLRC had a new goal: traverse from the Valsetz Road along Fanno Ridge to the peak, then back through known ground to Falls City. Seemed simple enough, given that Fanno Ridge, the northern boundary of the Valsetz Triangle, is one of the bigger features around.

At the Fanno junction, TLRC was surprised to find he was cold after all that climbing. Facing the Hobson’s Choice of being wet by the rain with no jacket, or being wet by sweat with one, he did both and was faced with starting out on the exploratory phase of the ride “pre-chilled” as it were. At some point, TLRC was going to make a big descent, and it seemed the wisest course to keep his extra layer in reserve for that, or for some unexpected unpleasantness. He compromised by putting on his gloves and set out for Fanno.

By this time, clouds and heavy mists were wafting up from the Triangle, and visibility varied from a few hundred feet to a few hundred yards. The road seemed “main” enough, fresh rock and new mileage signage, but no interpretable numbers (i.e. BLM ones to match his map). TLRC found the first major intersection, but the left-hand choice didn’t seem “main” enough so he stayed on the “main” road, looking for the next obvious, right-angled intersection. The next one didn’t look at all like it would do, so TLRC stayed on the “main” road, and found himself dropping rapidly into god-knew-where, all sense of direction evaporated and getting more chilled to boot. As the “main” road continued to descend and split into smaller and less “main-looking” spurs, it was becoming pretty “obvious” that TLRC was not going to make the ride, and the sooner he “anticipated” this and got out of the steady rain, the warmer he would be in the end.

He trudged back up to the Valsetz Road, put his extra layer on next to his skin, and his wet layer on over that, buttoned up and swept down to Falls City, by which point he was pretty cold. Even the full heater in the truck didn’t help much, and he found himself shivering over his Eugene Weekly and sub sandwich back in town. Even a dessert brownie didn’t help, and it was only after half an hour under The Long Suffering Girlfriend’s bathroom heater that TLRC felt his usual toasty self again.